Fred Olsen Lines sets sights on U.S.

NEW YORK -- U.K.-based Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is working on a small-scale British invasion of the U.S. market.

The small-ship line, which prides itself on its "English country-club style," according to marketing director Nigel Lingard, is moving to beef up the percentage of Americans on board. That percentage currently is less than 5%, Lingard said.

Veteran U.S. cruisers probably will recognize two Fred Olsen liners, the Braemar and the Black Watch, which led previous lives as the Crown Dynasty and the Royal Viking Star, respectively.

The line sails mostly in Scandinavia, the Baltics, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. But the Braemar will appear stateside this year and, in 2003, will host the line's first turnaround from New York.

The line, which joined the Cruise Lines International Association last fall, has scheduled a 15-day TransOcean and Canada cruise from Southampton, England, to Montreal aboard the Braemar. The cruise departs on Sept. 14.

Following the transatlantic cruise, the Braemar heads down the Eastern seaboard, stopping in Charleston, S.C., and Port Canaveral, Fla., before sailing to Nassau in the Bahamas and then to Barbados.

A spokeswoman for Cruise Broker, a New York-based consulting company that runs the line's U.S. sales and marketing, said promotional events are planned in those U.S. cities, and agents are being invited to tour the ship.

Fred Olsen will use this year's Braemar cruise and the 2003 cruises from New York to gauge the broader U.S. interest, Lingard said.

"If we can reduce the number of fly-cruises from Britain and draw on the local [U.S.] market, we will think about cruise turnarounds from southern U.S. ports," he said.

U.S. agents earn 10% base commission.

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